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1940s / Florence Sally Horner Abduction Case
Florence Horner (who answered to the name Sally) was the victim of a 1948 case of child abduction. It only merited regional coverage at the time. Had it happened today, it would surely be a national media sensation. In 1948, as part of a club initiation, 11-year-old Sally Horner stole a five-cent notebook from a dime store in Camden, NJ. Frank La Salle, a 50-year-old mechanic who had served a prison term for statutory rape, witnessed the theft and saw a perverted opportunity: He told Horner he was an FBI agent, and threatened to send her to 'a place for girls like you' if she didn't cooperate with him. La Salle abducted Horner and spent 21 months travelling with her from Camden to Atlantic City to Baltimore to Dallas and finally, to San Jose--all the while using Horner as an unwilling sex partner. LaSalle posed as Horner's father on their travels, even going as far as enrolling her in local schools under false names. While attending school in Dallas, Sally confided her situation to a classmate who urged her to contact the police. Shortly after relocating to a San Jose motor court, Sally confided her situation to another resident while Frank was away looking for a job and phoned her brother-in-law and older sister in Camden, asking them to 'send the FBI.' La Salle was arrested when he returned to motor court, but he claimed he was Florence's father. However, an FBI investigation found that Horner's true father had died seven years previously. La Salle was sentenced under the Mann Act to 30 to 35 years in prison. Literary scholars believe the Horner case at least partially inspired Vladimir Nabokov's famous novel Lolita. In fact, there is a reference to the Horner case in Part II, Chapter 33 of the novel. Nabokov also uses the adjective 'Florentine' to describe Lolita--likely an allusion to Florence (Sally) Horner. Like the fictional Lolita, Florence Horner died young: She was killed in a car accident near Woodbine, New York, on August 18, 1952. Two days later the Associated Press reported, 'Florence Sally Horner, a 15-year-old Camden, N.J., girl who spent 21 months as the captive of a middle-aged morals offender a few years ago, was killed in a highway accident when the car in which she was riding plowed into the rear of a parked truck.'